A 20-year-old state beauty queen died in a gun battle between soldiers and the alleged gang of drug traffickers she was traveling with in a scene befitting the hit movie “Miss Bala,” or “Miss Bullet,” about Mexico’s not uncommon ties between narcos and beautiful pageant contestants.
The body of Maria Susana Flores Gamez was found Saturday lying near an assault rifle on a rural road in a mountainous area of the drug-plagued state of Sinaloa, the chief state prosecutor said Monday. It was unclear if she had used the weapon.
“She was with the gang of criminals, but we cannot say whether she participated in the shootout,” state prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera said.
Higuera said Flores Gamez’s body has been turned over to relatives for burial.
“This is a sad situation,” Higuera told a local radio station. She had been enrolled in media courses at a local university, and had been modeling and in pageants since at least 2009.
Javier Valdez, the author of a 2009 book about narco ties to beauty pageants entitled “Miss Narco,” said “this is a recurrent story.”
“There is a relationship, sometimes pleasant and sometimes tragic, between organized crime and the beauty queens, the pageants, the beauty industry itself,” Valdez said.
“It is a question of privilege, power, money, but also a question of need,” said Valdez. “For a lot of these young women, it is easy to get involved with organized crime, in a country that doesn’t offer many opportunities for young people.”
Sometimes drug traffickers seek out beauty queens, but sometimes the models themselves look for narco boyfriends, Valdez said.
“I once wrote about a girl I knew of who was desperate to get a narco boyfriend,” he said. “She practically took out a classified ad saying ‘Looking for a Narco’.”
The stories seldom end well. In the best of cases, a beautiful woman with a tear-stained face is marched before the press in handcuffs. In the worst of cases, they simply disappear.